Megacon Orlando 2016

I’ll admit it: last year’s Megacon experience had me worried. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy myself, that the staff was rude, or that I had to wade through three hours of traffic to reach a coveted parking space. Something was just missing. Show floor space squished uncomfortably together, leaving precious little room for the sparse cosplay game that year. Overall, Megacon 2015 lacked that big, lasting impression that a “Stan Lee Con” is expected to have. Perhaps the suffocating attendance rate of 2014 scared cosplayers away and frightened Con staff into shifting around the wrong gears in order to prevent a similar mishap in the future.

Whatever the case, I’ll cease my retrospection and digressing there. Megacon 2016 was a blast.

The Scoop:

What – The Southeast’s premier Comic Book, Anime, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, & Pop Culture event!

When

Thursday, May 26: 4PM – 9PM
Friday, May 27: 10AM –7PM
Saturday, May 28: 10AM – 7PM
Sunday, May 29: 10AM – 5PM

Where – Orange County Convention Center

Who – Stan Lee, Willaim Shatner, Kevin Smith, Billie Piper, Adam West, Christopher Llyod, Tom Felton, Frank Miller, Tom Payne, Ryo Horikawa, Chris Sabat, Vic Mignogna, James Arnold Taylor, David Hayter, and many others.

Price – $20-$55 (single-day), $95-100 (weekend), $400 (VIP pass)

Perks – VIP passes, meet-and-greet with cosplay and pop culture guests, Costume Contest, cosplay repair room, premiere screenings of Outcast and Star Trek Continues, Roxy the Rancor, 1996 Batmobile, Back to the Future machine, 1st-ever Megacon wedding, panels, artist ally, small press pavilion, Ink Fusion Empire Tattoo, over 645,000 square ft. of shopping madness, Geekfest Film Festival, 501st Legion, and much more.

jinchuriki naruto real

Reporting at a Con is never a suit-and-tie affair for me. I prefer to wear cosplay like any other attendee and blend in with the crowd, only flashing my press pass when access points demand. I think a layman’s perspective is important, but more-so, I have always enjoyed Megacon’s cosplay game and see it as my civic (read: geeky) duty to partake in it. This also allows me to experience the mindfulness of the Con staff in regards to the cosplay community—perhaps their biggest independent draw and therefore one worth respecting. There’s a lot to be said about the attitude of a Con by the way it treats its cosplayers.

Despite a stricter sense of security and a gaudy weapons check (big pink bows instead of zip ties), I felt rather pampered as I stepped onto the show floor as Black Jack, Levi Ackerman, or Ema Skye. Staff weren’t always individually informative (I experienced a lot of redirecting on day #1), but they were courteous; even security guards asked for photos of me as they passed by on their Segway PT’s. Buses ran non-stop, transporting cosplayers to and from the Con and parking lots, helping them escape the suffocating Florida heat.

weiss and winterThe vendor’s hall provided the most space I’ve seen since my first nostalgic Megacon experience back in 2012. Even while wearing wings twice the size of my body, I was able to navigate the artist ally and vendors with relative ease. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been able to seriously take my time flipping through the pages of an artist’s work without worry of hogging an already over-crowded space.

This year saw nearly as much original art as official merchandise—a long-in-coming balance that felt satisfactory for Megacon. While the fandoms represented varied, all fan artists seemed firmly established in their craft, with no real amateurs on the show floor. Vendors pandered to comic fans, particularly, though otaku, furries, and other sub-fandoms felt proportionately included.

Megacon provided the means for a good time, and oftentimes cosplayers created the ends. Hundreds of fans gathered for themed phototshoots on the outdoor stairway, with Disney and MARVEL receiving the largest turnout Sunday afternoon. Deadpool and Spiderman cosplayers uncannily found each other and formed impromptu conga lines and dance routines. Open-floor, free-for-all lightsaber duels broke out to one fan’s Revenge of the Sith playlist.

megacon tell the worldNot all cosplayers saw Megacon as just a “fun-and-games day,” however. An erasable white-board passed through the vendor’s hall, encouraging cosplayers to tell the world their “real life” occupations—a countermovement to the belief that geeks are eternal basement dwellers without aspirations. Pro-geek charity organization Diversely Geek made celebrities of every cosplayer that crossed their booth, offering free photo-ops and encouraging attendees to embrace their inner nerd and love themselves.

A random attendee fetched a badge I couldn’t stoop to pick up. A pair of Lord of the Rings rangers assisted a fellow cosplayer in climbing to her stilts. I watched a total stranger rush up to a friend of mine, embracing her without prompt, as though they were long lost pals being united; two days later, my friend was still talking about that total stranger who made her day.

The geek scene—especially the cosplay community—has long been a place of tolerance and love. I not only felt welcomed at Megacon; I felt admired—not because my cosplays were particularly special but because someone, each day and without fail, took the time to say a kind word, ask for a photo, assist me, and recognize me. And I don’t mean, “Oh! You’re Black Jack! Can I have a photo?” I mean people whom I’d never met literally stopped to look me in the eye and talk to me with the intent of getting into my psyche. Small talk at Megacon is non-existent. Nearly every conversation holds the intent and weight to leave a lasting memory. One might say that cosplayers make Cons great, but I think credit must be given where it is due. Megacon allows for a freestyle, even deviant, environment where such randomized passion and occasional silliness (OK, a lot of silliness) is permissible. That environment allows everyone—in and out of cosplay—to flourish.

Thank you, Megacon, for allowing the boom boxes, the kid on the wheely-skates, the over-sized costumes, and the impromptu LARPing. I think I speak for all attendees when I say, “I felt the freedom to be myself that weekend.”

That doesn’t mean there weren’t any rules, of course, or that Megacon overlooked its celebrities in favor of its attendees. I passed at least 4x as many security checkpoints throughout the week, as staff cracked down on loiterers without badges. Special guests were treated with utmost reverence and accompanied by very skilled “handlers” to both panels and the showfloor. Celebrities sat at elevated tables and platforms, with names and iconic roles clearly marked, allowing both guests and attendees ideal perspectives from which to observe the action. Panelist referees encouraged Q&A’s to be as original as possible, some even going so far as to shut down certain questions which seemed too mundane (celebrities often obliged, however).

ino shikamaru photoshoot

At the close of my week, I attended what has become my favorite Con panel ever—a Q&A with Vic Mignogna. The man is a literal inspiration: a kind, loving, and visionary leader with the heart of a child. Entry for his panel literally snaked the length of the hall, with people piling in tirelessly just to hear him speak. He gave the fans what they came for—a fun, rambunctious, real time—but also used his platform and captive audience to impart something important: a message that, I would argue, was at the heart of the Megacon experience.

“Be a voice for good,” he said.

In the midst of a Con scene that’s rapidly becoming about competition and fame, a few long-running giants refuse to bend to the contemporary movement. Megacon and GeekyCon are two of those family-oriented sentinels that continue to provide a quality experience that fosters positivity and fandom love in its attendees. This year’s event is the best I’ve seen since my first, nostalgic pilgrimage to the Orange County Convention Center back in 2012. Throwing in a Thursday certainly sweetened the deal, and with the upcoming Megacon in Tampa, I can only assume the franchise’s presence in Florida will continue to expand.

As Megacon moves forward with new events, special guests, and experiences, I would echo Mignogna’s words of wisdom: “Be a voice for good.” Continue to embrace the geek scene—the young, the old, the obsessive, the casual, the otaku, the Trekkie, the True Believer, the Ringer, and the little oddities that make geeks… geeks. Continue to provide a safe haven for us to learn and grow in, and continue to blow our minds with your magnitude.

Here’s to Megacon 2017!

The Southeast’s premier Comic Book, Anime, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, & Pop Culture event! MegaCon is a playground for fans of all ages who love genres from gaming to sci-fi to comics and more! A weekend at MegaCon can include participation in a gaming tournament, snagging a professional photo-op or autograph with your favorite actor, watching comic greats duke it out in a sketch duel and much more!

Visit the Megacon official website here

Follow Megacon on Facebook

Featured image credit to Shutter Spade Snapshots
Photography by Amy Covel

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Author: Casey Covel View all posts by

Casey Lynn Covel (known online as “Cutsceneaddict”) is an award-winning, published writer, avid reader, and aspiring author. She runs a nerdy writing blog called Meek-Geek and founded PROJECT: Magic Kingdom Hearts in 2012. When she’s not writing for Geeks Under Grace, Florida Geek Scene, Beneath the Tangles, or FROM JAPAN, she enjoys cosplaying, and has won several awards for her work. Follow her on Instagram for her latest cosplay endeavors. #meekischic

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